An environmental activist, who was duped into a relationship with an undercover officer, has won a landmark tribunal case against the Met Police.
Kate Wilson brought legal action against the force and the National Police Chiefs Council for breaches of her right to freedom from inhuman and degrading treatment, her right to privacy and right to freedom of expression.
The tribunal heard how senior officers “encouraged or tolerated” undercover officers having sexual relationships with activists they were sent to spy on.
Wilson, 41, began a relationship with Mark Stone shortly after meeting him in 2003.
The pair had a “whirlwind romance” before they split in 2005 when she started a new life in Spain.
In 2010, she discovered he was actually a married police officer called Mark Kennedy and was sent to spy on activists as part of the Met’s National Public Order Intelligence Unit.
Today, the tribunal ruled in her favour over the breach of human rights, citing ‘lamentable failings’.
Both the Met and NPCC accepted Kennedy’s actions amounted to a breach of the woman’s rights.
On Thursday, the tribunal found the Met’s claims that undercover officers knew sexual relationships were banned were “materially undermined by the sheer frequency with which [Kennedy] (and other UCOs) did conduct sexual relationships without either questions being asked or action being taken by senior officers”.
They added: “We are driven to the conclusion that either senior officers were quite extraordinarily naive, totally unquestioning or chose to turn a blind eye to conduct which was, certainly in the case of [Kennedy], useful to the operation.”
The tribunal concluded: “This is not just a case about a renegade police officer who took advantage of his undercover deployment to indulge his sexual proclivities, serious though this aspect of the case unquestionably is.
“Our findings that the authorisations under [the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000] were fatally flawed and the undercover operation could not be justified as ‘necessary in a democratic society’ … reveal disturbing and lamentable failings at the most fundamental levels.”
Kennedy had sexual relationships with as many as 10 other women during his deployment, including one with a woman known only as “Lisa” which lasted for six years before she discovered a passport in his real name.
He was one of half a dozen undercover officers from the NPIOU or its “sister unit”, the Special Demonstration Squad (SDS), who Ms Wilson came into contact with between 1998 and 2010.
In a statement, Mrs Wilson says a ‘re-think’ is urgently required within the force.
“The events in my case happened years ago, however the failure of the police to protect women from sexual predators within their own ranks, and police attempts to criminalise protesters, are both still very live issues today,” she said.
“We need to tackle the misogyny and institutional sexism of the police, and there needs to be a fundamental rethink of the powers they are given for the policing of demonstrations and the surveillance of those who take part.”
In a joint statement issued by the Met and the NPCC said: “We accept and recognise the gravity of all of the breaches of Ms Wilson’s human rights as found by the tribunal, and the Met and NPCC unreservedly apologise to Ms Wilson for the damage caused, and the hurt she has suffered from the deployment of these undercover officers.
“Some of the breaches related to a sexual relationship.
“A Met officer, Mark Kennedy, was seconded to the now-disbanded National Public Order Intelligence Unit as an undercover officer from 2003-2010.
“During his deployment, and in his cover identity of ‘Mark Stone’, he began a sexual relationship with Ms Wilson.
“Mark Kennedy resigned from policing in 2010.”